School buses may get cameras

FAIRMONT – Buses serving Fairmont Area Schools might be equipped with security cameras by the start of the 2014-15 term.

The school board discussed the possibility Tuesday in response to a request from Minnesota Motor Bus, which holds the district’s transportation contract.

Superintendent Joe Brown said the bus service already has cameras installed in three units. There are 13 buses that run regular routes, leaving 10 with no cameras.

If the district splits the cost with the bus service, Brown estimates the district’s share at $11,000. This would include four cameras located on each bus: one each in the back, front and middle, with the fourth overlooking the driver and the door.

The number of bus-related incidents that the dean of students at Fairmont Elementary School handles “is higher than you want, about three to five times a week,” Brown told the board.

With the Legislature poised to enact an anti-bullying law this year, Brown added that the data garnered from the security cameras could clear up a lot of “he said, she said” situations.

Diane Gerhardt, board chairwoman, asked for clarification about ownership of the cameras and who would be responsible for maintenance and repairs.

The district will continue to research the issue, evaluate the impact on the budget and continue discussions with the bus service.

Turning to other business, the school board approved a policy allowing the district to enter into a tuition agreement with another school district that shares a common boundary.

Effective July 1, bordering districts will be eligible to tuition in entire grade levels of students in grades 7 through 12 at the rate of 70 percent of the current Minnesota weighted state aid, about $4,900, keeping the remaining 30 percent plus all other levies and revenues.

The tuition agreement contracts, to be negotiated and approved annually, will include Minnesota State High School League activity programs, meaning schools could still maintain separate sports teams.

In other school news, the final dehumidification project at the elementary school received a green light from the board when it accepted the low bid of $111,600 from Feder Mechanical of Madelia.

The project, which will dehumidify the annex gym, will complete the extensive heating, air conditioning and ventilation project at the elementary and junior/senior high schools begun in 2009.

Feder previously has done work on the schools for this project.

In other business, the board:

o Placed Keith Anderson on a half-time unrequested leave of absence, because of low registration in the woods program at the high school.

o Approved a medical leave of absence for Amelia Petersen, elementary school custodian, from April 8-23, and Terry Duffey as a substitute custodian for the same time period.

o Hired Chris Sturdy as head boys soccer coach for 2014-15, replacing longtime coach Jeff Kot, who retired.

o Learned the district’s operations committee is recommending no change in existing rental fees for district facilities.